Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.


Swirls move tiny objects

Individual cells can be manipulated by tiny vortices generated in fluids, rather than by the potentially harmful lasers or electric fields typically used. The concept is the brainchild of Li Zhang and his colleagues at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, who used the vortices to control the movement of microscopic objects.

The team placed a tank of water in a rotating magnetic field, which triggered nickel nanowires in the tank to rotate in turn, generating microvortices. The vortices trapped polystyrene microbeads in the water. By controlling the movement of the nanowires, the authors could tightly control the movement of the beads.

They also successfully manipulated Escherichia coli bacteria using a pair of microspheres in place of the nanowires.

Nano Lett. 10.1021/nl2032487 (2011)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Swirls move tiny objects. Nature 480, 294 (2011).

Download citation


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing